Rafting the Colorado River is top on the list for white water enthusiasts. The Grand Canyon stretch of the river offers some of the most exciting so it’s not wonder tourists jump at the chance to run them. But it’s not for experts alone. There is plenty of calm water for the novice to enjoy as well. Boating down the Colorado gives visitors access to unique sections of the canyon not otherwise reachable. And those who choose rafting tours over other kinds seem to have reliably the more enjoyable and special experience.
Rafting tours can be found for those at any level. There are age requirements for those who want to run the most advanced rapids but tours are available for the novice and the expert alike and can last from hours to weeks on end. Tours range in style depending largely on what kind of boat you choose. Motorized rafts move the fastest and allow tourists to be just that as no physical participation is required of the patrons other than holding on. If your time is limited but you’re determined to run the whole length of the Grand Canyon, this is the way to go. Oar boats are powered by a guide, again leaving your arms free for cameras and journals. Those who long for a hands-on experience though should take a paddle boat. A guide will navigate but patrons are expected to row the boat through calm and white water. The final option is a Dory boat. A Dory is a wooden boat with more intimate seating. They move a little more quickly down the river and those who take them talk of feeling the movement of the water more. They tend to hold fewer people so smaller groups may enjoy the up-close-and-personal experience a Dory can bring.
There are variables in rafting companies. Some offer nights at a ranch, others string quartets. Most outfitters provide food, water, and camping gear. All make stops along the way for hikes in side canyons and time spent along the water’s edge but some groups will tailor your tour and some won’t. What doesn’t change is the amount of river you can run. There are upper canyon trips lasting about 88 miles and lower lasting about 137 or so. The whole canyon runs about 225 or 245 if you go all the way to Lake Mead. How much time you have may determine how far you go. And, of course, how much white water you want to experience may play a part. The lower part of the canyon brings the biggest and most famous rapids but novices that run the whole river feel very prepared by the time they hit them. Anyone rafting for more than a day can expect to camp. Most outfitters provide your equipment but be responsible and know how much is provided and what. If sleeping on the ground isn’t your thing, there are tours that bring along cots. If backpacking in and out of the canyon sounds too arduous, choose a trip that includes a helicopter ride in or out or run the whole river and avoid that all together. Some outfitters can accommodate those with physical restrictions but not all so do your research. As always, know what you’re buying and be honest about your own desires and abilities so as not to be stuck in a situation you can’t leave.
Photo Courtesy of Wilderness River Adventures
Grand Canyon Outiffters that offer Rafting Tours
Papillon Grand Canyon Tours
Best known for it’s air tours but can provide combination packages to enhance your overall experience and maximize your time in the Grand Canyon.
Maverick Helicopter Tours
Helicopters are specially designed to maximize the sight-seeing experience with a variety of tour packages to fit both budget and schedule.
Grand Canyon Coaches
Provides a variety of combination coach tours by partnering with other respected tour companies.
Grand Canyon Airlines
This company is the originator of fixed wing flights over the canyon and offers a range of tours and packages to accommodate all budgets.
Get America Tours
Company offers combination tours that include other major parks and destinations to maximize your experience of the American West.
Great West Adventure Company
Offers a variety of tours to the Grand Canyon from Arizona locations inclusive of some unique sights and features. Check out the Historic Railway Tour for a real Old-West experience!
Heli USA Airways
Offers some unique combination tours that provide a taste of history and Old West entertainment.
Open Road Tours
This company caters to the adventurer who wants to maximize their experience the American West and learn along the way.
Pink Jeep Tours
This is a family friendly, adventuresome way to visit some of the quieter, unique spots in the Grand Canyon and have an unobstructed, up-close experience.
Offers a range of tours to suit your sight-seeing style. Fly, float or drive your way to and through the Grand Canyon.
Grand Canyon West
Tour the West Rim’s Eagle Point Reservation, Guano Point and the Hualapai Reservation with the tribe as your guide.
Colorado River Discovery
This group offers a guided quiet water float or row down the Colorado into the Grand Canyon.
Wilderness River Adventures
Guided white water rafting appropriate for all active and fit-ish folk. Hiking and camping are part of the multi-day experience as is conquering the mighty Colorado River.
Arizona Raft Adventures
This back-to-nature adventure company takes you down the Colorado River in white and calm water for days on end, providing guided hikes and floats and scenic camp sites.
Arizona River Runners
This company offers white/calm water rafting packages of varying lengths inclusive of hiking and camping.
Canyon Exploration Expeditions
This company’s offerings span from the traditional to very unique, even inclusive of a rafting tour with a string quartet.
Tracing its roots back to the first tour company to take visitors down the Colorado River, this group offers unique rafting experiences with historical authenticity.
Colorado River and Trail Expeditions
This company offers white water rafting tours of varying lengths with deluxe inclusions of helicopter rides and sleeping cots.
OARS Grand Canyon Adventures
This company offers the unique experience of river running in wooden Dory boats. Tours range in length from 4-18 days.
This company provides white water rafting tours of the Grand Canyon lasting from 5-15 days.
Western River Expeditions
This company provides river rafting in style with cot camping, prepared meals and roomy tents.
Four Seasons Guides
This company provides a wide range of tours at varying levels led by knowledgeable staff. Camping and rafting are part of some tours.
Just Roughin It Tours
Unique backpacking tours of the “road less traveled” in the Grand Canyon.